JLP Chairman Jason Tarry

Source: JLP

Tarry left Tesco in March, after 33 years

Former Tesco UK CEO Jason Tarry is to succeed Sharon White as the new chairman of the John Lewis Partnership.

Tarry’s appointment – which was announced Monday morning and will begin in September – will see White step down earlier than the original scheduled date of February 2025 in order to support the transition.

It marks the end of a six-month long search following the announcement in October that White would not pursue a second term as chairman.

Tarry is a well-known figure in UK grocery, having spent nearly 34 years at Tesco. He joined as a graduate in 1990, and held roles across the business including bakery category director, non-food sourcing director and CEO of group clothing.

During his six-year spell as UK & Ireland CEO, he was credited with helping to revive Tesco’s grocery sales in the UK, having played a leading role in so called ‘Project Reset’ under former group CEO Dave Lewis.

He left Tesco in March, having announced his plans to step down in October, with former Aldi CEO Matthew Barnes named as his successor.

Tarry’s appointment as JLP’s seventh permanent chairman comes just under than a month after JLP returned to profit for the first time in two years.

He will work alongside partnership CEO Nish Kankiwala, Waitrose executive director James Bailey and newly appointed John Lewis executive director Peter Ruis to press ahead with JLP’s turnaround plan, which includes plans to save as much as £900m from the business by 2028.

In the announcement, JLP addressed speculation that it would look to somehow water down, or change the role of chairman, insisting that the time commitment, five-year appointment term and specification of the chairman’s role remained unchanged.

Early end to White’s spell as chair

White joined as chairman in 2020, and led the partnership through Covid and the cost of living crisis. However, her tenure has been dominated by concerns over JLP’s poor performance, foray into buy-to-let property, and controversy over leaked plans to potentially dilute the partnership’s mutual status.

The upturn in JLP’s results in 2023 suggested that her cost-cutting turnaround plan, the deadline of which had been pushed back by two years, was starting to make progress. She is yet to announce what she plans after she leaves the business.

“I’m delighted to be handing over to Jason, who has a combination of fantastic retail experience with leadership through transformation,” White said.

“From my many conversations with Jason, he has demonstrated a clear appreciation for the partnership model and champions it. I look forward to welcoming him to the partnership in September and carrying out a smooth handover. 

“I also want to thank partners for their commitment and hard work. It’s been a huge privilege to be chairman and I’m proud of what everyone has achieved. We’ve built the foundations for a stronger partnership and I’m confident that Jason will take it from strength to strength.”

Sharon White - John Lewis Partnership Council, May 23 002

Source: JLP

White will step down when Tarry joins in September

Rita Clifton, partnership deputy chairman and chair of the nomination committee, who led the recruitment process, extended a “huge thanks” to White for leading the partnership through “one of the most testing periods” in its history.

“As the partnership moves into the next phase of its modernisation, focused on our core retail business as well future growth, we are confident that Jason will provide the kind of inspirational leadership, a proven track record in multichannel, multi-category retail success and a strong identification with partnership values that we are seeking in this role.

“Jason has impressed everyone throughout the interview process with his warmth, his belief in the partnership’s ideals and democratic principles and his appreciation for our unique and special brands,” Clifton added.

Tarry said it was a “great privilege” to be appointed White’s successor.

“The partnership is unique and I’ve long been an admirer of the employee-ownership model, its values and partner-led customer service. This starts with a sharp focus on being brilliant retailers for customers and investing in growth. I’m looking forward to working with the board, Nish and the executive team to deliver its clear strategy.”